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So You Want to Host an EBUFU Event - A Comprehensive Guide

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  • So You Want to Host an EBUFU Event - A Comprehensive Guide

    Photo of the Conclusion of Missionary Ridge Event was hosted by the Governor Guards and Mess No. 1.

    A Comprehensive Guide to Organizing Authentic Events
    By Eric Tipton

    “We are missionaries of authenticity.” Paul Calloway – Founder of the Authentic Campaigner

    As the owner of the Authentic Campaigner, I have the honor and privilege of talking to many people, veteran and newbies alike, about hosting EBUFU (Events By Us For Us) Events. They come to us seeking advice and an endorsement from the AC. Since there is a great deal that goes into the requirements for an authentic event, I often suggest speaking on the phone with the organizers to establish what is expected for their event to be considered. The authentic hobby is on the rise. There are great ideas floating around and new people are coming forward every day wanting to do their part. There were many people who mentored me and I would like to pass this information along to you - the next generation of event organizers.


    In 2004, I attended the Pickett's Mill Event, (Click Here for the Pickett's Mill AAR Thread) hosted by The Critter Company, a legendary authentic cavalry unit that was led by Coley Adair and John Cleaveland. When the Critters rode into an event, they looked like they came right out of a history book. And they hosted some damn fine events. Pickett's Mill was no exception. It was the one that truly opened my eyes to EBUFU Events.

    After a fantastic weekend reliving the actions of the 5th Kentucky (Federal) on the actual battlefield, and in real time, I approached Coley and John after their post-event speeches. I wanted to put together one of these events just the way they did it. I already had the scenario in mind. Rich Mountain. I had read about it in the 6th Ohio Regimental History. There were many vivid accounts of the Western Virginia Campaign that really piqued my imagination and I knew it hadn't been done as an EBUFU Event. When I told them I wanted to do it, they offered to help me in any way they could. It was because of those two gentlemen that I started my personal journey with my best friends in Mess No. 1 to host EBUFU Events.

    Photo of the final speeches at the Pickett's Mill EBUFU Event in 2004, hosted by The Critters.


    Before we get into the details, let's start with the basic requirements to post your event at the AC and move forward from there. Essentially, this is the Who, What, When Where and Why of the event:

    1) Date/Location
    2) Identified unit impression
    3) Impression guidelines based on historic data
    4) Established organization, structure and reasonable goals for numbers
    5) Activities outside the event standard schedule which add value to the event
    6) Traditional EBUFU activities: rations, guard, drill, some level of immersion, overnight picket, short march, etc.
    7) Website, Email List, FB page, etc.

    This list is not exact and encompasses the general types of events. There are many variations and combinations, but this should give you an idea.

    Living History - Usually portrays one side - typically on actual ground at a public site with or without spectators. Could be static, mobile, or both.
    Outpost - Opposed or unopposed armies in the field in a non-battle scenario where guard is run 24/7 according to the manuals. Typically portraying a vignette of an actual scenario that occurred before or after a major engagement.
    Preservation March - An event designed to travel a certain distance over a period of days - usually unopposed to raise preservation dollars for a specific cause.
    Tactical - Opposing armies portraying a particular scenario, but with latitude for commanders to adjust based on the real-time situation.
    Battle Scenario - Opposing forces portray the actions leading up to and including a particular battle scenario.

    Photo of the Chickamauga Living History, hosted by the Governor Guards in 2017.


    Events tend to start with "I have always wanted to do xyz scenario". This is good. If you want to organize an event that you think others will attend, consider it from the perspective of an attendee. Based on the historical record and the feasibility of accomplishing it, ask yourself: "Is this something that would appeal to you if you were attending?" "Is it even possible to pull it off?" "Is there land available to do it?" These are all questions you need to ask yourself before putting anything out in public. If this event idea is something you would be willing to attend as a participant, it is a good start. But, no matter how good your idea is, you have to be able to execute it. This is where the rubber meets the road.

    Most successful events are derived from well-known historical events. This isn’t a hard-and-fast rule, but generally, the more known the scenario, the better your chances of attracting participation. You may have an obscure dream scenario that appeals to you, but will it have a wider reach? When you are marketing something, you are competing with many other ideas. Yours needs to stand out and name recognition certainly helps. So, ask yourself, “Does this event have some cache? Is it an event that will strike a chord with people?” If it passes this test, what comes next?


    Many of us came to authentic reenacting because we grew tired of the same-old events that have no basis in reality. There are the battles in the soccer field, burning powder, the handshakes between Abe Lincoln and Robert E. Lee impersonators at the conclusion of the battle (actually saw that one in Ohio). What sets us apart as a living history hobby is researching what ACTUALLY happened. Frankly, from my perspective, this is the best part. What could be better as a living historian than to at least get a glimpse and participate in a scenario that you read in a book or saw in a movie or documentary? And the kicker is, we actually have the equipment and people to accomplish it. The scripts are already written. The wardrobes are already established. All you have to do is find the information.

    As a lead organizer, maybe you are the person in your group who does the research. Maybe it is your best friend or someone you know very well who lives to research. Whoever it is on your team, this step is going to involve ready, possibly visiting official records on-line or in person. Think of all of the movies and events you have seen and how you complained about the inaccuracies. This is your chance. Do the research and do it right. Stick with first person accounts and primary sources. Get it straight from the horse’s mouth.

    It's not just the story or the uniforms either. What really makes us stand out as a hobby are the details. Were they issued rations or uniforms or were they hungry and wearing rags? What small things can you incorporate into the scenario that only a person familiar with the history would know? For Rich Mountain, our lead consultant for the event was Hunter Lesser, literally the author of one of the definitive books of the Western Virginia Campaign, "Rebels at the Gate". Hunter grew up in the area and had always imagined what the battle had looked like. When we approached him about doing this as an authentic event, one of the first things he said was "Are you going to drop your knapsacks at the base of the mountain and go without them for the weekend?” "Yep, we sure are." we replied. A broad smile appeared on his face. “Awesome.” He said.

    These are the types of things that can make your event unique. These are the vignettes that people will remember. Talk to other event organizers. Watch what they do. We should all, as a hobby try to push the envelope to do better. I always get a kick out of reenactors who say, "Well, what are you guys going to do? Get dysentery and eat rancid pork?" Years ago, a mainstream reenactor asked me, "So, what makes you guys so special?" I leaned in close to his hear and whispered "We use live rounds", winked and walked away. Not really, of course, but there is a very wide range of activities we can do that are historically accurate and safe, right? It's all in the books. It's in the reports, the diary accounts. We can do just about anything we want. It is a matter of finding the correct information. Make your event stand out. Do your research! I can’t stress this enough.

    Map of Civil War Battle Locations, published by the National Parks Service.


    Now that you have your idea, where will you do it? The ideal location is on the actual ground. Nothing beats doing a scenario where the original actions happened. This provides the participants with a tangible feeling they can't get anywhere else, so start with the original ground. Is it a public site? Is it an NPS site? Find out the point person you need to talk to about hosting an event there. Start with an e-mail introduction and get on the phone and talk with them. If they are interested, I would highly suggest going to the site for a personal visit. And when you do this, have at least a basic outline together to present to them. Be organized. The better prepared you are when you make that first impression, the better your chances of success.

    If you are not able to do the event on the original ground, it is not a deal killer, but it will be a challenge. Sometimes, finding a site that matches the topography of what you want to portray means going far away from the actual ground. You may want to do a scenario close to home because you live in a place that isn't close enough to actual battlefields or sites. Don't let this discourage you, but understand that the further you get away from an original site, the less likely it is that you will attract people outside of your region. This is where you need to consider reasonable expectations. How many people can you attract to the site based on its location?

    As we all know, the vast majority of Civil War Battles occurred in and around Washington D.C. and Richmond in the East and Tennessee and Georgia in the West. I am not excluding the Trans-Miss, Missouri, South Carolina, North Carolina, West Virginia, or the many other places where the war was fought, but the many of the major engagements were in these general areas, which also happen to be large population areas in the modern day. Know your market for your event.

    When you select a site, you must keep into consideration the driving distances of those who are going to attend. The more people that are outside of an eight hour drive time, the less likely you are to make your event into more of a regional effort. This isn't a bad thing. It is just a fact. As a hobby, we need regional events so that we can grow. If you are just starting your journey, it might be a good idea to start with a regional event and plan for a company-sized effort before moving on to host larger events. This isn't to say that you can't start with a large event. Mess No. 1 did Rich Mountain and attracted about 400 attendees. West Virginia is right between the east coast and the Midwest and was a reasonable drive for our friends down south. This is why it made sense to promote it as a "national" effort. The bottom line here is that you need to have a reasonable expectation based on the location of your event. Your scenario and location are the most important aspects in terms of marketing your event. There are many other factors that I will talk about here, but these two things are the foundation for what you are planning.

    Photo of the Vicksburg "Life on the Line" Event in 2007 at the Vicksburg National Military Park. The event was hosted by the Independent Rifles.


    Now that you have a scenario in mind, ideally, you will want to pick a date that is as close as possible to the original date of the scenario you are portraying. After attending an EBUFU Event, there is nothing like reading the accounts of what you portrayed to find out that the weather they experienced is exactly what they experienced. If your scenario happened in the summer, would it be realistic if it snowed during your event. Of course that is an extreme example, but you get my drift. If you read the journals and reports of the originals, they all talked about the weather just like we do today.

    The example that always comes to mind when I think of the date is "Life on the Line", hosted by the Pat Landrum and the Independent Rifles in 2007 at the Vicksburg National Military Park in the original works. (Click Here for the Vicksburg AAR's) The event was held in June and let me tell you something. It was hot. Like soul crushing hot. We were out in the works and attempted to make cover with canvas to no avail. There was no escape. Our Federal camp was situated along a tree line. Sun, shade, didn't matter. At night, many boys stripped down to cool off. That was a mistake. The mosquitos and chiggers were so bad, many woke up in the morning looking like they had chicken pox.

    Now, here is the thing. When you read the original accounts from Vicksburg, they sounded exactly like us. They complained about the weather, the galnippers, and the misery. We got to experience exactly WHAT they experienced. For many who attended that event, it was truly an "embrace the suck" experience. And in a nutshell, that is why you want to try and do your event around the same time of the year as the original scenario. We want to do "authentic" events. What is more authentic than experiencing the same things they experienced?


    Here is the caveat to picking the perfect date. Sometimes you can't. Charles Heath used to create a calendar and legend has it, it surrounded his office in Maryland. On this calendar were all of the holidays, mainstream events, and the other EBUFU events for a particular year. All of these things are important to consider, because real life and other events can definitely get in the way. If you want to maximize turnout, avoid holidays and other events. Pretty simple.

    The solution to this is to plan ahead. Sometimes people get excited and they want to do their event right away, but don't think about the other efforts out there. This is a mistake. To do smaller events well, you should give yourself at least a year. If you want to get ambitious and put together a large-scale effort, it could take at least two years to do it right and you need to find out if there are other efforts in the planning stages. If you find out there are other events that might conflict with yours, contact the event organizers and GET ON THE PHONE with them. Having the courtesy to actually talk to someone and work out a compromise will go a lot further than a text or FB Message and it will help you and the other event. If the events are both small and in completely different parts of the country, this might not matter as much, but it is still healthy for the overall hobby to cooperate with each other and do the best we can to increase the chances for good turnout at all of the events on the EBUFU Calendar.

    Event banner for the recently announced Rosecrans' Pursuit Event, hosted by 40 Rounds, The Liberty Rifles and The Independent Rifles


    OK, this one is my personal preference, but as a marketing person, I think it is absolutely crucial. Name the event exactly what it is. For instance, if you are doing a scenario about Gettysburg, what is the main hook for the event? It is Gettysburg, of course. I use Gettysburg as an example, because it is arguably the most well-known name brand in terms of battles, so it is a good place to start.

    So, let's say you are doing to campaign leading up to the battle of Gettysburg where the two sides were probing each other. An appropriate name would be something like "The Campaign to Gettysburg" or the "Road to Gettysburg", etc. You need to use the best hook you have to get people to attend your event. If you name it "Lee's Invasion" or "Meade's Pursuit", you are giving away the most marketable aspect of your scenario. No offense to those who have named their events along these lines, but for god's sake, these movie-sounding names drive me crazy. Call is literally what it is. There is no need to get too fancy with it. You can always use the movie title as the subtitle.

    For example, for the Missionary Ridge Event we are doing with the Governor Guards, the title is "Missionary Ridge". The subtitle is "Storming the Heights". Did any of you reading these event know that we have a subtitle for the event? Probably not. There is a subtitle because the script is based on the book "Storming the Heights" by Matt Spruill. This book is a collection of original Officer Reports and the subtitle sounds kind of cool, but if we named it "Storming the Heights", which heights are we storming anyway and where? Who knows? Don't be vague with your name. Be literal and direct. That's just my two cents on that one as a person who has been marketing for the last twenty-five years or so.


    You may not want to hear this, but hosting an EBUFU Event, large or small is ALOT of work. You are basically writing a movie or play and you are performing it live. And it isn't just any play. This is an event based on actual research and history. The movements, or lack thereof, need to be figured out. You need to find out what they wore, how many numbers they had, where they went and incorporate all of the other things I have already mentioned here. And getting the research right - from primary sources is only the first part. Once you have selected a scenario, picked a date, found a site, researched what you are portraying and written your outline or script, you still have to make the announcement and attract people to your event. You can have the greatest idea, site and research and still fail if you don’t execute what I call "The People Stage". If your event is going to succeed, this is the most important and difficult phase, because you are going from concept to reality.

    Photo of the Pickett's Mill 2004 EBUFU Event, hosted by The Critters.


    Are you a first-time organizer? If so, you better read this section really carefully, because this is where your event idea goes on to succeed or fall flat. Since you are just starting out, you will have to convince people that what you are doing is worth their time and the time of the people in their organization. You are going to have to GET ON THE PHONE. Sending texts and FB messages is not going to suffice. You are going to have to listen to the tone of their voice and their concerns and over a period of phone calls, you are going to have to adjust your expectations based on the response you get. This is direct marketing. You cannot take this personally. You want feedback for your idea. Remember that, because sometimes, after talking to experienced individuals, you might find out that what you are proposing is unfeasible, or maybe it was already done before and didn't work, for whatever reason.

    I started this article with my experience. I went to the Critters and then to several other groups to seek their support for Rich Mountain. I had been in the hobby for two years. We has just founded Mess No. 1 the year before. I was very fortunate in that I was surrounded by my best friends and mentored by the best in the hobby. Without that support, we would never been able to make Rich Mountain happen.

    When you see veteran organizers post their events, it looks easy, but they have literally spent hundreds or hours over the years researching, networking and experiencing EBUFU Events. Over time, if you stick with it, you too will gain this experience, but you need to understand that the main operating principle here is that the guys who have been doing this for years succeeded not because of who they are, but because they put in the hard work to get where they are. You will have to do the same. There is no way around it.


    It is said that when Roman generals returned to Rome from a victorious campaign, a parade would be held for them. During the parade, an advisor would whisper in their ear that "fame is fleeting". This was meant as a reality check for the ego of the general for success does not reside in fame or glory. Success is accomplished through hard work and discipline. The Romans were on to something...

    If you are going to host an EBUFU Event, bear in mind that most events are talked about for a few days or a week. The epic events are talked about for years. As I have described in this article, you can make anything you want out of your event. It is up to you to decide what the expectation will be. Will it be a large, national event? Will it be a small living history? Do you have the time, money, patience and frankly the will to make it into a large-scale effort? That is up to you to decide, but you should know that deep down, if you are doing this for any other reason than the love of history and the desire to do it right, you might be doing this for the wrong reasons.

    Throughout my own career, I have been surrounded by great friends, excellent mentors and experienced living historians. For every idea, there is an army of people behind the scenes to make it happen. Without that support, your event will go nowhere, but by the same token, without a driving force, an event cannot happen. Be that driving force, but understand that after the euphoria of having the idea and putting it together, at the end of the day, you will never succeed if you don't listen to those around you and adjust your thinking for the realities of planning an event.

    As the military axiom goes, no good battle plan survives the first shot. When you put together an EBUFU event, it is a marathon. Not a race. There are many details that need to be accomplished along the way and without steady and persistent leadership, your event will fail.

    Preservation Banner for the Missionary Ridge Event where all net proceeds will go to Brown's Ferry.


    For those of you who don't understand how this works, the best way I can describe the EBUFU event model is to relay my story from the early stages of planning the Rich Mountain Event. In 2004, I was presenting our proposal to the Rich Mountain Battlefield Foundation. They had hosted numerous mainstream events at the site but had never seen and only heard of "authentic events".

    At the conclusion of my presentation, they said "We don't get it."
    "Don't get what?" I inquired.
    "We don't understand how you can raise money without spectators." They remarked.
    "Well, how much do your events usually make?" I asked.
    "That's the thing. We usually break even after the vendors, food and spectator fees." They said.
    "Well, this is a completely different model." I told them.
    "So, the other thing we don't get is what's in it for you guys. You are telling us that at the end of this event all of the net proceeds will go to us, correct?" the chairman said.
    "That's right." I responded.
    "So, what's the catch?" They asked, finally getting to the nub of the matter.
    "Ah, OK, I get it." I exclaimed. "You don't understand our model. Here is the deal. We are doing this to raise money for preservation of this battlefield. That's why we do this. In exchange, we get to use the actual ground and our participants pay for that privilege, knowing that at the end of the day, all of the cash we raise through registration and fund-raising goes to battlefield preservation."
    "OK, that makes sense. We just didn't get how you could do this without spectators." They said.
    "I understand. This is a different model and it works. This is a different crowd than you are used to seeing at your events. These guys want to do the real thing."

    So, in a nutshell, that is the EBUFU model. You come up with a budget and figure out what your expenses are going to be. Once you have that together, set a goal for the amount that you want to donate to the preservation cause you have selected. It's really pretty simple. At the end of the event, just about every EBUFU host publishes a full financial report that shows the expenses and the net result. Prior to us doing Rich Mountain, the Critters published their results from Pickett's Mill in 2004. We used that as the basis for Rich Mountain and are still using the same basic format today with our Missionary Ridge Event.

    In the mainstream world, the site owners/municipalities/event committees charge the reenactors to appear at THEIR event. All of the net proceeds go to them. The reenactors are basically hired hands. In the EBUFU model, we control the budget, the expenses and the results and because we are contributing money and attention to the sites, it is OUR event. Hence, Events By Us For Us.


    This article is intended to outline the realities of planning an EBUFU event. It is a positive thing that I can sit down to write this at a time where more people are stepping up to plan events and by all accounts, the authentic hobby is thriving in the face of many forces outside of our control. What we can control, however is not what we say, but what we do. If you have always wanted to host an EBUFU event, don’t talk about it any longer. Take the plunge. Forget about those social media posts about hobbies dying, yada, yada and use that energy you have to make a positive impact. Because in the end, talk means nothing. We in the authentic hobby have the ability, literally at our fingertips to affect our own destiny. It is in our hands, for this generation to decide if we want people to remember the Civil War based on how we can portray it, or if it is forgotten. Debating politics on Facebook and wasting your energy on negative things will accomplish nothing. In the end, these are Events By Us For Us. Our fate is in our own hands. Make the best of it and do something about it. I can see the energy out there. Now, let's do it.

    Photo of Mess No. 1 at the Vicksburg "Life on the Line" Event in 2007, representing the 56th Ohio. The event was hosted by the Independent Rifles.


    Eric Tipton is a Founding Member of the Authentic Living History Groups, Mess No. 1 and 40 Rounds and has been involved in hosting four EBUFU Events - Rich Mountain (2006), Bummers (2009), Advance on Fort Henry (2017) and Missionary Ridge (2019) He is currently part of the core planning committee for the 2021 Rosecrans' Pursuit Event. As a founding member of Mess No. 1, Eric has attended over fifty EBUFU event over the last fifteen years. He has written articles for the Camp Chase Gazette and the now-defunct Civil War Historian Magazine. He founded the Common Ground Forum and was an administrator for The Authentic Campaigner from 2004 - 2012 before returning as the owner of the AC at the end of 2013.


    Once you have decided to organize an event, I have written two other articles that address the marketing of events. "Marketing Our Hobby in the Modern Social Media Age" (Click Here for the Article) and "The Current State of Authentic Civil War Living History" (Click Here for the Article). Please feel free to use these articles as reference and share. I am simply passing along the wisdom that was passed along to me.


    I want to thank specifically: First, Scott Bierer, Ken Cornett, Joe Liechty Jacob Dinkelaker Steve Spohn, and Evan Zimmerman of Mess No. 1 for being there every step of the way for the last fifteen years and more recently Seth Hancock of Mess No. 1 for re-igniting the passion of event organizing in the mess. Thanks to Coley Adair and John Cleaveland of the Critters for taking me under their wing and teaching me what it takes to put on a successful event. I would be remiss if I didn't mention the late Charles Heath for all of his contributions to the hobby and myself over the years. Charles was a polarizing figure at times, but his positive impacts cannot be ignored. I want to thank the Western Independent Grays for their support of Mess No. 1 efforts over the years. Without your backing, we could not have done the things we did. To the Armory Guards and Governor Guards, thank you for partnering with us for Bummers in 2009 and Missionary Ridge, respectively. To Paul Calloway, the founder of the AC. Your hard work behind the scenes to keep the AC together will never be fully-understood. You and I worked very well together over the years and I appreciate your trust in continuing the AC for this generation. Same to all of the people I have worked with at the AC over the years and up to the present. Your work behind the scenes at the site is tireless and not fully-appreciated. Upholding a standard is not an easy thing and some of you have been at this for a very long time. To the WIG, GHTI, Independent Rifles, Liberty Rifles, Stonewall Brigade, ONV, Texas Ground Hornets, SCAR, and all of the other organizations over the years, you have made EBUFU Events Circuit what it is today. To the Mudsills and Cleburne’s. You guys started this thing called EBUFU and we are forever in your debt for pushing research and authenticity long before we came around. And lastly, to so many of you who have taken the time to talk at events and on the phone over the years. There is a piece of every single one of you in everything I do in the hobby. You guys are all extended family and friends for life. At the end of the day, our experiences together are a part of who I have become as a person and who I will always be. Thank You.
    Last edited by Eric Tipton; 07-10-2021, 11:53 AM.
    Eric Tipton
    AC Owner
    Founding Member, Mess No. 1
    Cincinnati, Ohio

  • #2
    Re: So You Want to Host an EBUFU Event - A Comprehensive Guide

    Well written and well done Eric. This has needed to be written for a long time. I would also add that it is as important to focus on the aftermath as it is the build up. A good and honest AAR helps both the planners of that specific event and the planners of future events to hopefully not make the same mistakes twice.
    Jake Koch
    The Debonair Society of Coffee Coolers, Brewers, and Debaters

    -Pvt. Max Doermann, 3x Great Uncle, Co. E, 66th New York Infantry. Died at Andersonville, Dec. 22, 1864.
    -Pvt. David Rousch, 4x Great Uncle, Co. A, 107th Ohio Infantry. Wounded and Captured at Gettysburg. Died at Andersonville, June 5, 1864.
    -Pvt. Carl Sievert, 3x Great Uncle, Co. H, 7th New York Infantry (Steuben Guard). Mortally Wounded at Malvern Hill.


    • #3
      Re: So You Want to Host an EBUFU Event - A Comprehensive Guide


      Join me tomorrow night, Sunday, October 28th at 9:00 PM (Eastern Time) for a Livefeed on our Facebook Page to discuss this article and answer your questions about marketing and hosting an EBUFU Event.

      Eric Tipton
      AC Owner
      Founding Member, Mess No. 1
      Cincinnati, Ohio


      • #4
        Re: So You Want to Host an EBUFU Event - A Comprehensive Guide

        Here is a link to the Live Feed Broadcast on our Facebook Page: CLICK HERE TO VIEW THE VIDEO
        Eric Tipton
        AC Owner
        Founding Member, Mess No. 1
        Cincinnati, Ohio